B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry (in Victoria) and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside (in Vancouver) held a news conference today (October 1) to talk about health measures for schools.
As of Monday (October 4), all students in B.C. schools will be required to wear a mask when inside a school building, including while at their desks and on buses.
This requirement is an expansion of mask mandatory for students from Grades 4 to 12—this revision will now include students from Kindergarten to Grade 3. Henry said this measure will remain in place until the end of this term, and will be reassessed depending on what occurs in the coming months.
She added that masking does help to prevent the transmission of other viruses, particularly as we head into respiratory season.
Whiteside added that there are already some schools and communities in B.C. where students in those grades who are wearing masks.
“It’s been quite remarkable to see the degree to which, in many schools, students have really picked up on this notion of caring for one another and do everything they can do as well to pitch in with the effort,” she stated.
At a briefing on September 28, Henry had said the numbers of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population have been increasing “quite dramatically” among younger school-aged children who aren’t vaccinated, including those who are 5 to 11 years old.
Today, she repeated that among older age groups of students—those 12 to 17 years old—there has been a levelling off of cases, and she added that there hasn’t been as much transmission among staff this year as last year.
When she was asked about why B.C. doesn’t have mandatory vaccinations for the school system, Henry explained that her focus for provincial health orders is on the highest-risk environments where the risk is the greatest, such as longterm care facilities, group accommodations, industrial camps, and prisons, where employers need to have those policies for their employees.
She said that they do encourage all school staff to get vaccinated to protect school communities, as well as themselves and their own families.
When she was asked if cohorts would be reintroduced, particularly for younger students, Henry said that after a review of what measures worked and didn’t work during the previous school year, she said that they found that cohorts weren’t necessary for preventing transmission and “caused significant challenges in operations of schools at all levels”.
What she said they found was important included reducing mixing of grades, the number of people present in schools, and the number of people at gatherings and assemblies.
While Henry said that positive reinforcement of mask-wearing is important in schools, she also addressed those who are against wearing masks.
Meanwhile, altercations in public over mask-wearing have begun to arise again. Today, Sidney North Saanich RCMP reported that RCMP arrested three men on B.C. Ferries who refused to wear masks and threatened to fight with passengers who opposed them. Previously, a woman on SkyTrain in Burnaby asked a couple if they had masks to wear—in response, the couple physically assaulted her.
“For people who don’t believe in masks, they are not entitled to have the same access to those indoor environments,” she said. “It does not mean that just because you don’t believe in masks that you can still do those same things in the same way because that could be putting others at risk.”
She pointed out, as she has said in the past, that there are many ways that businesses can accommodate those who do not want to wear or cannot wear masks, such as through online shopping or restaurant deliveries.
She added that B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner is supporting health restrictions.
B.C. update: October 1
Today, the B.C. Health Ministry is reporting 714 new COVID-19 cases.
As the B.C. Health Ministry was unable to report active and hospitalized case numbers, as well as recoveries, yesterday (September 30) due to National Truth and Reconciliation Day being observed, changes in numbers for today’s update will be calculated in comparison to September 29.
Currently, there are 6,317 active cases, which is 132 more cases than September 29.
The new and active cases include:
- 274 new cases in Fraser Health, with 2,353 total active cases (37 more cases than September 29);
- 205 new cases in Interior Health, with 1,360 total active cases (79 more cases);
- 106 new cases in Northern Health, with 1,043 total active cases (128 more cases);
- 73 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, with 889 total active cases (22 fewer cases);
- 56 new cases in Island Health, with 614 total active cases (90 fewer cases);
- no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada, with 58 total active cases (same number as September 29).
Today, there are 328 individuals are in hospital (12 fewer than September 29), and 138 of those patients are in intensive care units (seven fewer cases than yesterday).
Tragically, 11 new deaths have been reported, including six in Interior Health, four in Fraser Health, and one in Vancouver Coastal Health. An overall total of 1,973 people have died of COVID-19-related reasons.
A total of 178,980 people who tested positive have now recovered, which includes 1,251 recoveries since September 29.
During the pandemic, B.C. has reported a cumulative total of 187,694 COVID-19 cases.
Since December, B.C. has administered 7,852,885 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines.
As of today, 88 percent (4,079,918) of eligible people 12 and older have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 81.1 percent (3,761,048) have received their second dose.
In addition, 88.5 percent (3,828,773) of all eligible adults have received their first dose and 81.9 percent (3,543,318) have received their second dose.
People who haven’t been fully vaccinated accounted for 71.3 percent of cases from September 23 to 29, and accounted for 80.8 percent of hospitalizations from September 15 to 29.
Outbreaks and exposures
Today, Fraser Health declared an outbreak at the Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre in Delta, where one resident and one staff member have tested positive.
Currently, there are 23 active health facility outbreaks.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control added the following 20 flights to its lists of potential public exposures:
- September 15: Air Canada/Jazz Flight 8403, Calgary to Kelowna;
- September 19: WestJet Flight 3175, Calgary to Nanaimo;
- September 19: Flair Flight 517, Victoria to Calgary;
- September 22: Air Canada/Jazz Flight 8107, Denver to Vancouver;
- September 22: Air Canada/Jazz Flight 8239, Terrace to Vancouver;
- September 22: Air Canada/Jazz Flight 8414, Vancouver to Kelowna;
- September 22: WestJet Flight 3373, Calgary to Victoria;
- September 23: Air Canada Flight 211, Calgary to Vancouver;
- September 23: Air Canada/Jazz Flight 8205, Vancouver to Prince George;
- September 23: Harbour Air Flight 216, Victoria to Vancouver;
- September 24: Flair Flight 447, Edmonton to Kelowna;
- September 24: Air Canada Flight 105, Toronto to Vancouver;
- September 24: All Nippon Airways Flight 116, Tokyo to Vancouver;
- September 24: Flight 298, Vancouver to Winnipeg;
- September 25: KLM Flight 681, Amsterdam to Vancouver;
- September 25: WestJet Flight 3105, Vancouver to Terrace;
- September 25: WestJet Flight 3309, Kelowna to Vancouver;
- September 26: Air Canada Flight 861, London to Vancouver;
- September 26: Air Canada Flight 1041, Las Vegas to Vancouver;
- September 26: Turkish Airlines Flight 75, Istanbul to Vancouver.